By John Curley
The stunning United Palace Theatre, a restored 1930s movie theater in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan that has a capacity of over 3000, was the setting for the terrific concert by the Oxford-England-based five piece Foals on Friday, November 4th. The band, who are touring behind their fourth album What Went Down, are comprised of Yannis Philippakis (lead vocals, lead guitar), Walter Gervers (bass, percussion, vocals), Jack Bevan (drums, percussion), Jimmy Smith (rhythm guitar, synthesizer, backing vocals), and Edwin Congreave (keyboards, synthesizer, backing vocals).
There were three bands on the bill for the United Palace Theatre show. Opening the show with a quirky 40-minute set were the Orange, California-based quartet Kiev. The band features Robert Brinkerhoff (guitar, vocals), Andrew Stavas (keyboards, saxophone), Brandon Corn (drums, percussion), and Derek Poulsen (bass, computers). Their off-kilter tunes earned them a big hand from the crowd at the end of their set. And during their set, many people in the audience left their seats to crowd in front of the stage. That seemed to both energize the band and please them.
The second band to perform were the Brooklyn-based Bear Hands. They play drum-heavy, uptempo synth rock, which seemed to earn favor with the crowd. The area in front of the stage during their performance was packed with audience members that had left their seats to get closer to the stage. Being a local band, they probably had friends and family in the crowd. Their 50-minute set was really well received by the audience, as the theater had filled up while they were onstage. Bear Hands are Dylan Rau (guitar and vocals), Val Loper (bass), Ted Feldman (guitar), and TJ Orscher (drums. They had an additional musician with them on electronic percussion and guitar.
Foals took the stage to a loud pre-recorded intro as the crowd rose to their feet and roared. Strobe lights were flashing behind the band. They kicked into the synth-heavy instrumental “Prelude,” and that really got the crowd energized. Foals then segued right into “Snake Oil,” an extremely intense, bass-heavy song. The green pulsating spotlights that were shining into the crowd during the performance of “Snake Oil” were the perfect accompaniment to the song. “Olympic Airways” followed, and it got a nice hand from the crowd. The rousing “My Number,” probably Foals’ biggest hit single to date, is a drums-, bass-, and keyboard-heavy song that received a massive reaction from the audience.
The performances of “Hummer” and “Give It All” built up the energy level in the crowd, which exploded with the incendiary performance of “Mountain At My Gates” that got a deafening reaction from the audience. Before the cheers died down, the band went right into “Providence,” which began with Philippakis singing alone at the start with no instrumental backing. The band then kicked in quite heavily. Philippakis left the stage at one point and ran up one of the theater aisles as the audience went bonkers.
“Spanish Sahara,” a much more mellow tune, followed, and was a good choice as it let the audience chill out for a bit. “Red Socks Pugie,” which is guitar and drum heavy, featured a nice effect of lights hitting the disco ball suspended above the stage and sending reflected light all over the venue as the band played. It got heavy at the end, and that had the crowd roaring.
As the main set neared its conclusion, Philippakis thanked the crowd for their support and for being kind to their opening bands. The crowd then sang along with great gusto to “Late Night.” Prior to the start of “A Knife in The Ocean,” Philippakis discussed the upcoming elections in the United States and, when he gave his opinion on the Presidential election, the crowd cheered. “I hope you do the right thing, if you know what I mean,” he said. “A Knife in The Ocean” has a mellow beginning, and then gets heavier and much more intense toward the end. The main set closed with an incendiary performance of “Inhaler.” The crowd at the front of the stage was going nuts as the band pushed the song further and pulsating white spotlights were shining out into the crowd. It was an incredibly effective way for the band to close the set, and it left the crowd cheering loudly until the band returned to the stage for the encore.
Foals’ two-song encore began with an incredibly intense “What Went Down.” Philippakis crowd surfed for a bit as the audience let out a deafening roar. The show came to a close with the performance of “Two Steps, Twice.” Spotlights hit the disco ball above the stage and sent light all over the theater as the band picked up pace and intensity. As the audience cheered loudly, the band left the stage as feedback roared from their amplifiers.
The reports of the death of guitar bands, which some in the music press have been pushing for over two decades, are greatly exaggerated as long as young, talented bands like Foals continue to fly the flag. I had never seen Foals live before, and I came away from the show very impressed with their 90-minute set. They are a great live band and have a crew of very ardent fans.
Foals’ tour dates can be found at http://www.foals.co.uk/live.htm. Their North American tour concludes on November 9th with a show at the Riviera Theatre in Chicago.
Foals’ set list was as follows:
Give It All
Mountain At My Gates
Red Socks Pugie
A Knife In The Ocean
What Went Down
Two Steps, Twice